California halibut is one of the most sought-after species of fish and it’s on the bucket list of most anglers from across the globe. For this reason, one of our frequently asked questions is how to catch California halibut.
Read on as we’ll deep dive into everything you should know about fishing for halibut, including the best California halibut rig and tips for seasoned anglers on California halibut fishing from shore.
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What is a California Halibut?
Before we discuss how to catch California halibut, you first need to know how to identify the species.
The California halibut is the most abundant and largest flatfish within the fish’s normal range which is the southern part of San Francisco, California. It grows up to 27 kg or 60 lbs. and 1.97 m or 5 ft long. The female halibut grows much larger and lives longer compared to its male counterpart.
The blind side of the halibut is white while its sighted side is brownish. Half of the population of California halibut has both eyes of the fish on the right side of their bodies.
Best Spots for California Halibut Fishing
California halibut can be caught along North America’s Pacific coast from San Francisco to Baja and Mexico.
The species is usually found in the following:
- Docks, Pilings, Piers: Wherever there’s structure such as ripraps, you can bet there’s fish, shelter, and food. Barnacles, weeds, and other sources of food for California halibut will attach to just about anything. Piers and docks offer shelter from the harsh rays of the sun, as well as a nice spot for halibut to feed and rest.
- Kelp Forests: In the US, kelp forests are abundant along the coastline of California. There’s a large congregation of kelp plants in the area which California halibut use to hide from predatory fish and sneak up on their prey. If you’ll fish for halibut in a kelp forest, begin by free lining lead or live baits from a drifting or anchored boat. Try adding weight gradually to your California halibut rig setup if you aren’t getting bites.
- Deep Shore Water: Currents typically form pockets along the shore, which have deeper water. The deeper water has a darker color than the water surrounding the area. It’s where bigger halibut move into and wait for prey to pass by. Try fishing in deep shore water as you may just get something larger than you would expect.
- Bays and Estuaries: Have a large tackle box if you’ll fish in an estuary or bay. Such bodies of water often contain a combination of salt and freshwater species. They can be fished either from a boat or from the shore.
The lures, bait, and tackle that you can use for California halibut fishing are jigs, crabs, squid, saltwater live bait, cut bait, and clams.
Different Ways to Catch California Halibut
There are many fishing styles and techniques for catching California halibut. The ones that are proven and tested by seasoned anglers and what they would recommend are the following:
If you want an active way to catch California halibut, then you’ll like jigging. It requires you to pop or snap the rod’s tip up to move your lure vertically in a water column.
A jig rig for halibut comes in different colors, shapes, and sizes. This allows you to learn jigging with or without live bait. A soft plastic worm is used for jig halibut fishing, as well as bucktails.
Jigs are some of the effective and versatile lures. When targeting halibut, drop the jig down to the sandy bottom, twitch your rod tip erratically so the jig comes up to the surface, then repeat.
There are some anglers that would argue the best way to catch California halibut is through bottom bouncing. It’s a method that modifies the trolling or drift fishing technique.
Bottom bouncing attracts California halibut and causes the fish to start feeding or strike. Learning how to bottom bounce is a great idea as it offers you a way to locate fish if you’re in unfamiliar waters.
You’ll find natural baits or bucktail jigs to be commonly used as the bottom bouncers. They’re dragged on a sandy bottom by a moving boat either drifting or with the use of a spot lock trolling motor with batteries.
Also referred to as still water fishing, it’s an effective way of catching halibut. It’s a technique that involves putting bait into the water and then waiting for some time for the halibut to find it.
It’s a simple yet effective method for beginner fishing. Still fishing can be done near the surface, down the bottom, or at mid-water depth with the use of a bobber or float.
A drift fishing rig may be set up to fish at a selected depth or on the bottom. Natural baits would work best when drift fishing but you can also use lures, jigs, and artificial flies.
Both cut and live baits can be drifted using a weight on the line to let it remain near the bottom. Once you learn this method to catch halibut, you can drift for other species and different bodies of water regardless of the season or time of day.
You should know that there are strictly implemented laws and regulations related to California halibut fishing. Make sure you check the specific regulations for the area or body of water that you’re fishing in.
You can find California halibut all year, especially in the Bay Area. The limit for the fish is three per day, plus there’s a minimum length, which is currently 22 inches. Check with the local authorities to get updates on halibut fishing regulations.
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